Dear Editor

Post prescience
With reference to the notice, (pictured here), snapped at Arcadia Post Office, had you only known this before, you needn’t have gotten so hot under the collar about the Post Office.

On another point, let me join his many fans in saying: Harold Strachan rocks! Without his wry input, Noseweek can get a bit heavy to digest now and then – so many sleaze buckets!


Polluta continua
Regarding Sasol’s toxic compost (nose183), I am attaching a report* on the testing of contaminated process water that Sasol commissioned and the effects on the cattle grazing on the fodder. This shows Sasol was and is fully aware of risks associated with the polluted grazing and the sale thereof.

I can personally testify that Sasol at Secunda polluted a neighbouring property (mine) with contaminated water and then did nothing about it for 11 months until we formally complained. In response they simply told us that no cattle should be allowed to graze on (my own) land – with no suggestion of a clean-up or compensation.

The farmer we allow to graze cattle on our land assures me there have been repeated spillages from Sasol on to our land and that several of his cattle have died after drinking the water.

In a local newspaper, Sasol top management claimed only one spill and that Sasol had “immediately resolved the problem”. A lie. Also, they have not reported the incident to the state departments that monitor pollution and it seems they will get away with it. The farmer whose cattle have died has little hope of being compensated for his loss.

Initial tests on soil samples indicate that our land has been seriously polluted. I intend taking Sasol all the way to get it cleaned up, suitable for township development.

Ian Ross

‘Times’ a-changing
I was wondering whether you could cover the situation at the Cape Times where the new CEO of Independent Newspapers has been gradually getting rid of its best staff and contributors. The recent axing of John Scott’s column by way of a two-line email has astonished me after his long and noteworthy relationship with the newspaper. I can’t imagine the Cape Times without his incisive, but never vindictive, ironic humour. I also wonder whether Max du Preez’s views will ever see the light of day again in the Cape Times after he wrote his “Zuma, the wrecking ball’” piece to which our president took such exception.

Another irreplaceable talent, Tony Weaver, is also gone – most are aware of the reasons behind our losing “Man Friday”. (Actually, with his knowledge of Africa and environmental matters, he was more like “a man for all seasons”.)

The Cape Times is really becoming a shadow of its former self, getting thinner and thinner by the day, with large spaces devoted to advertising for subscribers and enormous page-filling photographs accompanying relatively unimportant news. This is all so reminiscent of what happened in a neighbouring country. Soon, it seems, we might only be able to read anodyne, pre-vetted “reports” in our normally vigorous print media.

Such a terrible shame and dangerous signs for freedom of speech.

Cape Town

You obviously missedFishy whiff at Independentin nose181. And for an update, turn to "Doctor's dismay" in this issue. Ed.

From bad smell to odious disgrace

Since I have only just received digital copies of Noseweek [to replace print copies not delivered by the Post Office], I hope you will allow a late comment to “Fishy whiff at Independent” (nose181). I have been told that Dr Iqbal Survé is the Chair of the UCT Business School Board. Can this be correct? What kind of example is UCT setting to future business people?


Happy forecourt franchisee

Regarding your article (nose183) on the fuel pricing model introduced for fuel retailers known as the Regulatory Accounting System (RAS ), I write to tell you that my situation is not nearly as dire as your article might suggest.

I have a Caltex garage and my site is owned by the oil company, so it is a good example. Prior to December 2013 we paid about R40,000 rent per month, plus a franchise fee of about R6,000 per month. After RAS, the rent fell away and so did the franchise fee. Of our R1.06c markup, we allocate 11c per litre to the rent from each drop – and that is it. The beauty is that if we do not get a load of fuel because of refinery problems, we are not lumbered with the rent overhead. With strikes and lower fuel sales, the same applies. So I prefer this way.

However, with the issue of leases, I have had a lease since 2001 in three lots of five years each. This expires in 2016 (as will many others) and we are all getting threats that they will not automatically be renewed. I sell good amounts of fuel and give top service with no credit issues, so they have no justifiable reason to chuck me out.

I sympathise with those who must borrow money to fund a service station purchase. Repayments are back-breaking and some expenses very high. For example the cash pick-up service is very pricey. Owning a forecourt shop is not the picnic it would appear. Theft, crime wastage, admin and franchise fees as well as constant regulatory checks all make it a nightmare.

Tony Ball

Percentage pointer

I have long been a reader and admire your perseverance in investigating corruption and exposing the ungodly.

I offer the following constructive comment to aid in your pursuit of excellence: in nose183 (“20 years on”) you refer to percent and percentage points, apparently indiscriminately. There is a big difference between the two: If the bank interest rate decreases from 10% to 8%, that is a decrease of 2 percentage points but a drop of 20 percent.

The use of percent in the first paragraph is incorrect: Coloured South Africans’ levels of agreement decreased by 21.8 percentage points (not percent) from 92.2% to 70.4%.

Best wishes for 2015 from a satisfied customer. 

Jim McLuskie

Absa’s extra squeeze

In March last year I wrote to Carel Grönum, head of home loans at Absa, in response to a notice announcing an increase in the bank’s monthly service fee. Grönum claimed that “historically the monthly service and administration fees on Absa’s home loan accounts have remained unchanged”, yet the bank’s costs had increased in line with inflation yearly. It said the fee rise “takes into account the increase in costs to administer these agreements”.

I had (historically) been paying a monthly service fee starting at R5.70 in April 2004, so I did a calculation using the website www.inflation.eu to look up SA’s inflation (CPI) over the past 10 years, and I applied the figures to my monthly service fee of R5.70. The result: in March 2014 I should have expected to be charged about R11.19 a month. In fact, I was being charged R34.20.

And, that month Absa was proposing to “revise” my monthly service fee, effective April 2014, upward to R39.90 – more than three times what it should have been, were the increase to allow for inflation, as Absa claimed. Apply these increases to millions of home loans and one begins to understand how simple it is for Absa to generate vast “extra” income and profits without extra effort.

Now, only nine months later, Absa has written advising of another service fee rise from R39.90 to R45.60, an increase of 14.29%. Where do they get these figures from?

No wonder I have received no response to my letter.

I love your magazine!

Henning W Weltz
Pinelands, Cape Town

Twin Towers demolition

It is very refreshing to find Harold Strachan writing seriously in nose182 about the scam that was 9/11.
I am a structural engineer and I remember clearly on the day those towers burnt saying to my wife that it was wrong. Anyone who has played Jenga knows that tall towers don’t fall straight down. It is the reason we a have a demolition industry, buildings fall over by choosing the path of least resistance. This means they topple over choosing to fall through air rather than themselves, as the intact building offers some resistance. The Twin Towers collapse was a demolition job.

H Hamilton
Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal

The gentleman’s agreement that wasn’t

Having read your report (nose180) on the shady scheme to “bury” JCI, I have an idea of the sort of men in charge of that once-proud company.

I am 82. I battled for months to get some response from Peter Gray about a pension agreement I have had with JCI since my retirement in 1992. He refused my repeated requests for a man-to-man discussion about the matter.

Six years before my retirement was due, my wife and I were persuaded to accept transfer to JCI’s London office, Barnato Brothers Ltd, whose head was retiring. Prior to that, I had been general manager of the Coal Division for approximately nine years, and then GM of the company’s Administrative Services Division and Project Manager for the building of the new JCI House.

Because of my many years of pensionable service prior to transferring to the London office, and the exchange-control problems of the time, the cost of transferring my past service into the Barnato Group Pension Fund was deemed prohibitive. It was therefore agreed (in writing) that when I retired, JCI in Johannesburg would pay me a supplementary pension of a fixed £500 per month.

Since my retirement in 1992 I have received a South African pension in rands for my service there (the real amount has steadily diminished because of the poor exchange rate), my smaller pension from the Barnato Bros fund for the six years I was employed in London and the agreed £500 monthly supplement from JCI in Johannesburg.

A few months ago I received a note from the current head of the London office, Phil Dexter (iyt is now an independent enterprise) who told me he had been asked by Peter Gray to advise me that, since JCI was being wound up, my £500 per month would shortly be “discontinued”.

Seemingly Gray had neither the courtesy nor courage to inform me himself.

In June I was told that my pension was to be discussed at a board meeting. Subsequently Gray sent me the following one-line note: “The board has reiterated that we will not be making any further payments toward your medical aid and will continue to make your  pension fund payment until the company is completely wound up.”

A company cannot simply be wound up without meeting all its obligations. I need to be told what provision JCI has made for my supplementary pension to be paid after its winding up. Would they set aside a lump sum to be negotiated?

No answer from any of them.

After 38-plus years of service to what used to be one of the old-type gentlemen’s companies, I frankly feel disgusted by the board’s behaviour and lack of courtesy in handling my rights.

C Doug Beynon
Seven Oaks, Kent, UK


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Submitted by : Clive Varejes of GALLO MANOR on 2015-02-03 21:25:21
Thank you noseweek.
After all the horrors and cheating and lies exposed by yourselves on a monthly basis, it was really entertaining to read the ludicrous conspiracy theory as propounded by one H. Hamilton from the cultural iconic village of Underberg.
Now prepare yourselves for the deluge, those aliens do not appreciate being left out of such stories.
Clive Varejes

Editor's Note
Order! Order! Only I may be abusive to those with views I might not approve. Conspiracy, or no conspiracy, do you have a better qualified engineer's view on how tower buildings collapse?


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